The handling of relations with Georgia by the current US administration has been typically bad. It was absurd to encourage them to think of joining NATO, and the means chosen by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili of handling relations with Russia has been just as stupid.


Georgian forces and separatists in South Ossetia agree to observe a ceasefire and hold Russian-mediated talks to end their long-simmering conflict.

Hours later, Georgian forces launch a surprise attack, sending a large force against the breakaway province and reaching the capital Tskhinvali.

South Ossetian rebel leader Eduard Kokoity accuses Georgia of a "perfidious and base step".

The head of Georgian forces in South Ossetia says the operation is intended to "restore constitutional order" to the region, while the government says the troops are "neutralising separatist fighters attacking civilians".

Russia's special envoy in South Ossetia, Yury Popov, says Georgia's military operation shows that it cannot be trusted and he calls on Nato to reconsider plans to offer it membership.

Story from BBC NEWS:

And from there it has gone from bad to worse. Georgia declared a 'state of war' with Russia.
It is clear that Russia is the major power in the area that must be responsible for ensuring stability. It is also noted that when the Russians act to intervene they do not do it with kid gloves or often with surgical precision. It is likely that Russia may overreach itself in Georgia with unfortunate results, but the cause has been the US overreaching itself in attempting to extent NATO too far and quite unnecessarily.

The majority of Georgians are no doubt keen to retain their independence from Russia. They wish to move to a proper democratic system and they have supported the international community by taking part in operations in Iraq. But the history of this region does not lead one to believe that it is a suitable country to form in one single peaceful transition a peaceful and stable boundary between Russia and NATO member states. If as a result of impossible relations with Russia the Georgian economy crumbles and the current leadership is overthrown, it will be due to bungled politics and diplomacy.

Georgia says it has ordered its troops to begin a ceasefire, that its forces have withdrawn from South Ossetia and that the Russians are fully in control in the region's capital, Tskhinvali.

But Russia says clashes are continuing, and it launches fresh bombing raids near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

The targets appear to be a military airfield that had already been hit on Sunday morning - although reports say the international airport was also hit.

Russian warships are deployed near ports along the Georgian Black Sea coast, including Poti, where Georgian officials say wheat and fuel shipments are being blocked. Russia insists there are no plans to stop oil exports, but says it reserves the right to search any ships. Later reports say the warships have been withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the separatist authorities in Georgia's other breakaway region of Abkhazia announce a full military mobilisation, saying they have sent 1,000 troops to drive Georgian forces from their only remaining stronghold in the Kodori Gorge.

The US government deplores the "disproportionate and dangerous escalation" by Russia in the conflict and warns it could have a "significant" long-term impact on US-Russian relations.

What an utter pig's ear.

Little progress so far. David Cameron thinks the trouble is we did not move fast enough or strongly enough to get Georgia into NATO, that Russia should be treated as a despicable bully, etc etc.  Of course it is clear that Russian actions have been unacceptable, but no more than Georgia's blasting into S. Ossetia with the idea of imposing martial law.  Of course in theory S. Ossetia is part of Georgia and in international law that is all that counts. But theory and practice being different it requires good sense when handling these matters. Cameron says the only language Russia understands is diplomatic rigour (backed up by force, presumably). This is absurd. Diplomatic rigour is fine, but Russia is a de facto major power in the region that has to be engaged in ensuring law and order in the interests of all the nearby countries. The world is plagued by minorities of activists driven by historical motives of vengeance and jealousy that rise to the surface whenever people cannot make a reasonable living by conventional, peaceful means. It is possible to stick to a strong line without indulging in rhetoric that makes it more difficult for Russia to relax its over-tense reactions. In any country there are all sorts of people in the 'corridors of power'. Amongst them are always a number of driven men and women, with all sorts of personality problems and historical agenda. Depending on how we deal with them, the ones whose policies rise to the top are to a considerable extent the result. Appeasement of dictators hungry for terriorial acquisition is not to be recommended, but territorial acquisition is not a strategic or tactical requirement for today's Russia. It is in its historical defensive mode, but concerned about its borders and caring to flex its muscles on behalf of its nationals. There were plenty of times in histotry when Anglo Saxons went to war over such things - wasn't there a guy called Jenkins who just lost an ear?  The idea that if we acknowledge it has the right to defend its nationals that we are inviting an invasion of the Baltic states is something to chew on, but the way to ensure this does not happen is to get back to sensible diplomatic relations.

Dick Cheney is reported as saying: Russia's invasion of Georgia must not go unanswered. Asked what that meant he said "shall not stand".  Very probably it won't, but no because Dick Cheney says so but because first there will be a cease fire and then it will be argued out and debated in the EU, NATO, UN councils and then the situation will be regularised. All this folly has come about because of the absurd political posturings by those both east and west who have bollocks for brains.

Here is an excellent comprehensive up to date 2pm zulu report from AP

Swarms of Russian jets bomb Georgian targets


Swarms of Russian jets launched new raids on Georgian territory Monday and Georgia faced the threat of a second front of fighting as Russia demanded that Georgia disarm troops near the breakaway province of Abkhazia.

While a senior Russian general insisted that Russia has no plans to press further into Georgian territory — its troops are now in two breakaway provinces — the order to disarm carried the threat that Russian-sponsored fighting would spread.

The new air forays into Georgia — even as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on signed a cease-fire pledge — appeared to show Russian determination to subdue the small, U.S.-backed country, which has been pressing for NATO membership. Russia fended off a wave of international calls to observe Georgia's pleas for a truce, saying it must first be assured of Georgia's retreat from South Ossetia.

The United States is campaigning to get Russia to halt its retaliation and American officials have accused Russia of using the fighting to try to overthrow the Georgian government. President Bush, who has encouraged Georgia's efforts to join NATO, said he spoke with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Russian president.

"I've expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn the bombing outside of South Ossetia," Bush said in an interview with NBC Sports.

In turn, Putin criticized the United States for airlifting Georgian troops back home from Iraq on Sunday at Georgia's request.

"It's a pity that some of our partners instead of helping are in fact trying to get in the way," Putin said at a Cabinet meeting. "I mean among other things the United States airlifting Georgia's military contingent from Iraq effectively into the conflict zone."

A two-front battlefield would be a major escalation in the conflict, which blew up Friday after a Georgian offensive to regain control of separatist South Ossetia.

Most Georgian troops are near South Ossetia, in the center of the country along its northern border with Russia, which would make it difficult for Georgia to repel an offensive from Abkhazia, in the west along the Black Sea.

International envoys flew into the region late Sunday and the U.N. Security Council met for the fourth time in as many days to try to end the conflict before it spreads throughout the volatile Caucasus.

In Tbilisi, Saakashvili signed a cease-fire pledge Monday proposed by the French and Finnish foreign ministers. The EU envoys plan to travel from Tbilisi to Moscow later Monday to try to persuade Russia to accept it.

Saakashvili had ordered the halt Sunday after overwhelming Russian firepower blasted his troops out of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, but Russian officials said they saw no cease-fire on the ground.

In Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia has completed "a large part of efforts to force Georgian authorities to peace in South Ossetia," a statement that suggests Moscow could accept the proposed cease-fire.

Saakashvili, however, voiced concern that Russia's true goal was to undermine his pro-Western government. "It's all about the independence and democracy of Georgia," he said during a conference call.

At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Sunday, Russia's ambassador to the United Nationa, Vitaly Churkin, acknowledged there were occasions when elected leaders "become an obstacle."

Saakashvili said Russia has sent 20,000 troops and 500 tanks into Georgia — with some troops getting within three miles of Gori, located just outside South Ossetia, before being repulsed Sunday.

Georgia borders the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia and was ruled by Moscow for most of the two centuries preceding the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have run their own affairs without international recognition since fighting to split from Georgia in the early 1990s.

Both separatist provinces have close ties with Moscow, while Georgia has deeply angered Russia by wanting to join NATO.

Georgia began an offensive to regain control over South Ossetia overnight Friday with heavy shelling and air strikes that ravaged the city of Tskhinvali. The Russia response was swift and overpowering — thousands of troops that shelled the Georgians until they fled Tskhinvali on Sunday, and air attacks across Georgia, some on facilities far from the site of the fighting.

The Georgian president said Russian warplanes were bombing roads and bridges, destroying radar systems Monday and targeting Tbilisi's civilian airport Sunday night. One Russian bombing raid struck the Tbilisi airport area just a half-hour before the EU envoys arrived, he said.

Georgia said another hit Friday near the key Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which carries Caspian crude to the West. No supply interruptions have been reported and Russia denies targeting the pipeline.

While not addressing reports of the incursion near Gori, Nogovitsyn, the Russian general, said Russia had no intention to move deeper into Georgia. "We aren't planning any offensive," he said.

Saakashvili later drove to the outskirts of Gori, a town where scores of people were killed in an Russian attack Saturday. He was joining French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who had just completed a tour of the destroyed buildings.

As the Georgian president spoke to reporters next to his SUV, a member of his security team shouted "cover him!" Saakashvili was torn away by bodyguards and pushed to the ground. They piled extra flak jackets on top of him.

Fearing an air raid, onlookers fled, looking skyward and screaming. No jets were seen or heard.

Kouchner had left seconds before the panic.

"This a misfortune, this is impossible to support," Kouchner said after touring Gori. "That's why we not only have to denounce this, but we have to work to stop the fight."

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said more than 2,000 people had been killed in South Ossetia since Friday, most of them Ossetians with Russian passports. The figures could not be independently confirmed, but refugees who fled the city said hundreds were killed.

Thousands of civilians have fled South Ossetia — many seeking shelter in the neighboring Russian province of North Ossetia.

"The Georgians burned all of our homes," said one elderly woman, as she sat on a bench under a tree with three other white-haired survivors of the fighting. "The Georgians say it is their land. Where is our land, then?"

Nogovitsyn said on Russian television Monday that Russia demanded Georgia disarm police in Zugdidi, a town just outside Abkhazia, but did not say what would happen if they do not.

Abkhazia's Russian-supported separatist government called out the army and reservists on Sunday and declared it would push Georgian forces out of the northern part of the Kodori Gorge, the only area of Abkhazia still under Georgian control.

A Russian commander said 9,000 additional Russian troops and 350 armored vehicles had arrived in Abkhazia.

Nogovitsyn also said Russian ships deployed to Georgia's Black Sea coast sank one of four Georgian patrol boats that came close Sunday — a report rejected by Georgian Coast Guard chief David Golua.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council met for the fourth time Sunday in four days to discuss the crisis. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad accused Moscow of seeking "regime change" in Georgia and resisting attempts to make peace.


Associated Press writers David Nowak in Gori, Georgia; Douglas Birch in Vladikavkaz, Russia; Jim Heintz, Vladimir Isachenkov and Lynn Berry in Moscow; John Heilprin at the United Nations contributed to this report.


As of 6pm Z it has been confirmed that Russian troops have entered Georgia from Abkhazia. A Russian spokesman has claimed that a casefire can only be achieved if signed first between South Ossetia and Georgia. This absurd and obviousl a ploy to allow further intrusion. How the Russian aim to gain respect by this it is hard to see, but it will all come out in the wash eventually. I wish these people would grow up. It seems there are some seriously bruised egos around.

AUGUST 12th 2008
Russian Priesident Medvedev today announced an end to Russia's military operations in Georgia and explained the reason for them. In not so many words he explained that the region is stuffed with very excitable and violent people who, once they get their bood up, get completely out of control and need to be smashed hard and suddenly to get them to sit down an shut up. I have to say I feel he is probably quite right; it may be hard to tell if more innocent people suffered as the result of actions of the Georgian Military and its political commanders than did by the less than sugical response of the Russian army, navy and airforce..

I hope now things will proceed as I suggested a few days ago:
there will be a cease fire and then it will be argued out and debated in the EU, NATO, UN councils and then the situation will be regularised. All this folly has come about because of the absurd political posturings by those both east and west who have bollocks for brains. I think Mr Medvedev may have his brains in the right place.

The other way of looking at this is that the whole episode was engineered by Russia, that Saakasvili was lured into his ill-advised attack on South Ossetia, and Russia then came in and made a point they had been unabe to make diplomatically: that this is their backyard where they keep order on their terms in an area and amongst people they know well. In the history of our planet, all these things can be true at the same time even if nobody understands any of it.

AUGUST 13th 2008
No real progress at all despite a ceasefire having been agreed due to good efforts by Sarkozy. The US is insisting that all Russian troops should leave Georgia. I have to say that if Russian troops remain they should at least try to stop looting and and the burning of villages in South Ossetia. There is a serious fog-of-war in the region. I also have to say that the various Russian spokesmen are making much more sense than Condoleeza Rice, including having a better mastery of the English language. Without information to the contrary the Russian version of events has more credibility than that of the US. Rice is just blustering.

AUGUST 14th 2008
Professor Philip Bobbitt [] seems to understand these things. He's an eminent Texan, how come Geore W Bush hasn't read or listened to any of his opinions? Thank you BBC for giving him some time on today's World at One.

Having now hear whar Secretary of Defense Gates has to say (a man who I have had some respect for) I cannot change my opinion. I do not think Russia has done much more than should have been expected in the circumstances. I do not think Russian troops should leave until calm has been restiored and looting stopped and Georgian an UN (including Russian) peacekeeping forces are in place. I do not think any harm should come to European relations with Russia - in fact some good may come of it, though the greatest good will come when we have regime change in the USA. If we could use force to bring that about sooner than wait for their next election I would be all for it, but there is no chance.

It is not that Bush's policies are always wrong (though they often are), just that there is no policy or diplomatic situaton this man can't fuck up because he never has a clue about what is going on - or why. His father never had a clue either. The complaint against the Russians it that they did not stop South Ossetian miiitia thugs from killing innocent civilians that they did not consider ethnically or cultural compatible. How they can do that if they leave prematurely I do not know.

Midnight addendum: Now we hear that Rice and Sarkozy are preparing a peace agreement whereby Russian troops do NOT leave Georgia as demanded by Gates and other US spokesmen. Good, that's the point I have been making. Let's face it, US Foreign policy is a complete dogs breakfast, Bush has no authority and neither does America. From saviour of the world the US is deteriorating steadily to a damned nuisance. The best we can hope now is that its technicians and inventors will come up with new energy systems we now need, but regime change is really the only solution for America.

AUGUST 15th 2008
There is now clearly a difference of interpretation on how many Russian troops should leave and when according to the agreement which has at last been signed by Russia and Georgia. It is more important that peace and security should be established than there should be any mad rush to move out all the considerable amount of Russian military men and equipment.

AUGUST 16th 2008
Rather than ensuring peace and calm, in some places there are accusations that Russian troops are looting. George Bush will no doubt express surprise that Russia could suffer from such a lack of control of their military, unknown to the highly disciplined US army. But enough joking in poor taste - it would be appreciated, if communications are working, that looting could be stopped and humanitarian aid, including what the US has supplied, could be delivered.

It is perhaps the moment to be reminded that in Iraq, Bush sent his soldiers to break into the homes and oher places in Iraq to remove the meagre amount of small-arms they had to protect themselves, having left ungarded massive amounts of arms and explosives which were seized on by those dedicated to driving his troops out and murdering their own religious or tribal opponents. Compared to the total fuck-up in Iraq the Russians are doing well and will be out of Georgia when they are good and ready.

AUGUST 17th 2008
Russia is to start withdrawing tomorrow we are told by President Medvedev. Gates say
"The whole world is looking at Russia through a different set of lenses than just a week and a half or two weeks ago, so there are already consequences," Do you think we could stop looking at Russia through some set of lenses and just start making sense. Is Gates telling us that his previous set of lenses were faulty? They probably were, and so are his new set. It seems to me the US should learn a bit more about the world and its inhabitants and study it from various points of view.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pentagon chief Robert Gates dismissed as "empty rhetoric" on Sunday Russian warnings that Moscow would target Poland for a possible military strike because Warsaw agreed to host part of a U.S. missile shield. Here again, Gates has got it wrong. The warning were made by a Russian General stating something about Russian Military Doctrine. The man was a general, not a politician. The point to understand here is that Russian Military Doctrine has not been updated. In its present form it  classifies any missile system designed and run by the US, right on its borders, as a potential danger that if set up in express contradiction to Russian wishes. These are not necessarily the thoughts of the General, it is a statement of military doctrine which is what forms the basis of their millitary plans. It is true that this doctrine needs updating.
The principle of nuclear deterrence is that it works amongst states with large nuclear arsenals under the control of stable governments or states in an alliance with a nuclear umbrella. In such cases, a pre-emptive strike is unnecessary. But there is no defence against fanatics or unstable, rogue states in the hands of extremists. That is why there is a case for limited, purely defensive systems, strategically placed. The Russian Military Doctrine does not include such an animal as a non-explosive kinetic defense system designed to defend against small scale or accidental launches. The statement reported that "Russian military doctrine would allow for a possible nuclear strike" means, quite simply, that Russian nuclear doctrine needs examining. It is not empty rhetoric and therefore before deplying such a system this change of doctrine should be discussed and cleared with Russia. Gates takes the usual dismissive attitude the US takes to any country whose history it fails completely to understand.

AUGUST 19th 2008
NATO has agreed a stement which states that relations with Russia cannot continue as normal until Russia withdraws its military invasion force from Georgia. I think that is fair enough. Miliband has described Russia's action as 'adventurism', that just shows he has no idea what he is talking about, which is disappointing as I had been a supporter of the Miliband approach to foreign policy up to now. I have no doubt Russian troops will with draw, all in good time.

Now there is a UN resolution which Russia has rejected as it calls for immediate withdrawal in terms not consistent with the agreement already brokered by President Sarkozy of France. How can any withrawal be immediate? Withdrawal takes time and should be done with care. I think Russia is right again.

AUGUST 20th 2008
The only conclusion to come to is that the US diplomats and NATO representatives are spectacularly unable to express themselves clearly or understand the concerns of their Russian counterparts, or have any sensible dialogue. That is not surprising, given that George Bush is so incoherent that most UK citizens think he is just a bumbling idiot. How must he and the increasingly school-ma'mish Rice sound when translated into Russia. Communication using words and sentences that convey little meaning beyond the formulaic (and these in American procedural vernacular which must sound as ridiculous when translated into Russian as some formulaic Chinese sounds when translated into English), must make it unlikely that any meeting of minds is on the cards. It is necessary to understand Russian history and realities. Bush and his team do not even understand the realities of North America. Regime change please, as soon as possible.

It is beyond argument that moving steadily towards missile defense against certain risks, with the aim of having something in place in 10 years time, is good planning. What Russia objects to is the incessant march of American, not just NATO, military personnel and arms, to the very borders of Russia. They see this as economically and socially destabilising, particularly when the US is run by people such as Bush and his team who have little idea of the realities of politics outside the US and, as is becoming more and more obvious, little idea of reality inside their own country. Polish security is best secured with the help of Russia, not by a relationship that is based on disregard or enmity. Stability in the region should be based on Russian and US support, not one playing games against the other. 

The only way to classify the current US administration, a spokesman for which has just made a fool of himself on BBC 2 Newsnight, is juvenile and senile at the same time, lacking only maturity. "America is the first country to have gone from barbarism to decadence without the usual intervening period of civilization" said Oscar Wilde. To add "From juvenility to senility without a period of maturity" would be a little unfair given the amazing performance and sacrifice in WW II [once we had tricked them into action by giving the Pearl Harbour advance intelligence to Hoover instead of US Naval Intelligence], though the sacrifice was not made by their politicians but by the men and women they sent to do the job.

AUGUST 25th 2008
Russia has decided to retain more control for the moment in and around Abkhazia and South Ossetia that NATO countries are happy with. They are clearly intent on limiting arms imports. Not surprising in my view, the world being awash with local conflicts made hideous by the availability of modern arms. If they encourage these regions to go for independence from Georgia however, they will be asking for problems unless they then intend to ecourage, tempt or in some way force them into the Russian Federation. That will cause another bloody row even if based on referenda, as there is so much absurd symbolism at stake - mainly in the heads of pea-brained politicians.

Abkhazia could only be a self supporting country by virtue of its access to the Black Sea and conduit as a port. South Ossetia would only be viable if it joined with North Ossetia. Small nations who seek independence are invarialy doing so on the basis of somehow standing outside of a major block and thereby remaining free of some aspect of political or financial control which they then profit from. But this is the politics of the last century and we have to stop this sort of piracy in our very dangerous technical world. Let us be realistic. Break-away states are a pain unless they really can sustain themselves as part of a proper alliance with coherent rules, even though parts may be legitimately subsidized by the whole. International law demands that responsibility is taken by governments that can enforce a social contract and provide defence not based on local militias outside the law.

AUGUST 26th 2008
Russia has officially recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. "Russia redraws the map of the world" says the BBC report. Hardly. Nor can they can hardly be accused of hypocrisy. They are following the lead of the West, and even if they opposed the independence of Kosovo they are surely entitled to change their mind on these matters. We are dealing with a situation where there is no perfect answer either way. The vital thing is to keep some peace there. NATO has proved itself quite bad at keeping the peace in a number of places where it has tried for some time. At the same time ethnic cleansing should be avoided. I find president Medvedev's explanation quite justified.

Why we have Bridget Kendall of the BBC putting a point of view which she assumes is that of UK citizens is beyond me. There is no need for a cold war unless some idiot in Washington wants it. Our 'experts' are talking about 'diplomatic pressure'. Logical discussion is a much better idea. In my view there are now and going to be fewer acts of violence and criminality, revenge and ethnic cleansing  in these regions as a result of Russia's actions than if they had done nothing. Unless someone can make a convincing argument for an opposite opinion, they can button their lip. I have not heard any so far.

AUGUST 27th 2008
David Miliband thinks he has to 'warn Russia not to start a cold war'. Good grief Charlie Brown, has he lost his marbles? It is the West that is pretending to start a cold war because they have ideological differences with Russia, while Russia is being purely practical. They say: "There are a lot of Russian citizens in the Ukraine, would Russia go in there on the pretext of defending its citizens?". My answer would be that if a civil war started in the Ukraine, then yes, Russia should go in and stop it, certainly not NATO or a UN force wit no coherent control. The only time America has gone in recently was to start a civil war which they then could not stop. The hypocrisy of Western politicians is absolutely staggering.

AUGUST 29th 2008
Vladimir Putin has dimmed his credibility by accusing the Bush administration of 'orchestrating' the Ossetia incident to assist the Republican election chances, based apparently on the presence of Americans in Georgia, their relations with the Georgian government and the assumption that they were acting on instructions from Washington. The US classification of this deduction as 'irrational' is certainly correct and it is hard to explain. But I assume it arises from the utter frustration in the Kremlin to get Western diplomats to understand that the admittedly unorthodox recognition of the two break-away enclaves was caused by the West's refusal to allow Russia to remain there, under and in a unified Georgian state, to protect their own citizens. There are no 'right' and 'wrong' interpretations here. The West can claim Russia was illegal under international law, Russia can claim that to follow this law to the letter would have been irresponsible in the circumstances and I agree with them. Bush should understand what I am talking about and so should Miliband and so should any French head of state. If law and the lawyers had the answer to every future circumstance we would live in a very predictable world where no good, proper, difficult deeds were possible.

SEPTEMBER 2nd 2008
I agree with this commentary in the International Herald Tribune, except that I see no need for Georgia or the Ukraine to join NATO without full accord of Russia. Expanding any international organisation (including the EU) reaches a point where automatically those left out feel antagonism. Growth has its limits in every case in nature, human affairs, organisations, individuals and collectives. Growth can become a substitute for healthy function and internal responsibility. In individuals obesity and cancer are examples of two types of growth problem but there are others. The same goes for corporate entities. But read the article:
International Herald Tribune
Cohen: Loose talk that lost Georgia
By Roger Cohen
Sunday, August 31, 2008

DENVER: In retrospect the NATO summit declaration of April 3 about Georgia and Ukraine seems almost criminal in its irresponsibility: "We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO."

That lofty commitment emerged from a Bucharest meeting so split over the two countries' aspirations to enter the Atlantic alliance that it could not even agree to offer the first step toward joining, the Membership Action Plan that prepares nations for NATO.

It is unconscionable to declare objectives for which the means do not exist, or paper over European-American division through statements of ringing but empty principle. The history of the so-called "safe areas" in Bosnia, Srebrenica among them, is sufficient testimony to the bloodshed lurking in loose commitments.

The great Bucharest fudge succeeded only in infuriating the Russians without providing the deterrence value of concrete steps for Georgia and Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, then Russia's president and now its prime minister, made Moscow's fury plain to President George W. Bush the next day in Sochi, but Bush, no surprise, was asleep at the wheel.

Blood has since been shed, Georgia's borders trampled, and its breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia recognized by Russia resurgent.

That's a cautionary tale for Monday's European Union summit on the Georgian crisis: no empty commitments, please, and no feel-good doling-out of threats or sanctions against Russia for which the means are lacking. Grandstanding has had its day.

I'm appalled by what Russia has wrought in Georgia. The gulag and the enslavement of wide swathes of Europe by the Soviet empire burden Moscow with a historical responsibility for the freedom of its neighbors. Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian president, put these neighbors' fear most bluntly: "What has happened is a threat to everyone."

It is, but Putin, or at least Putin II, the angry man of the second half of his rule, thinks all that's bunk.

In 2005, the ex-KGB man, his veneer of St. Petersburg liberalism already buried, called the demise of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century. So perhaps we should not be surprised by the Georgian grab. Yet shock is palpable in Europe and the United States.

At the Democratic national convention here, a Georgian delegation wandered around garnering sympathy. Public relations are a weak state's best 21st century weapon.

David Bakradze, the chairman of the Georgian Parliament, told me: "Russia's aim is to weaken Georgia to the point that NATO allies are scared, instability brings regime change, and the map of Europe is changed by military force."

I can't argue with that. I don't like it any more than Bakradze. But before we get to what to do about it, a few points of history bear examination.

No, the West was not wrong to extend NATO to the former vassal states of the Soviet empire in central Europe and the Baltic. The historical debt of Yalta and the indivisibility of a free Europe demanded no less.

Could more have been done to bring Russia into this new European "architecture?" I think not. Ron Asmus, who dealt with these questions as a senior Clinton administration State Department official, told me "It's become a Weimar-like legend that we humiliated them."

On the contrary, hundreds of man-hours went into nudging the Russians westward. The NATO-Russia Council was set up; cooperation on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation was put in place. Boris Yeltsin was determined to break Russia's imperial tradition; Putin did not immediately reverse the trend.

What turned Putin cannot yet be written. Georgia's "Rose Revolution" of 2003 and Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" of 2004 were critical. Iraq played a part. I'm sure the huge amounts of money accruing to the managers, he chief among them, of a controlled one-pipeline Russian state did, too. And here we are.

Russia will pay a price for what it's done. It's angered China, opened a Pandora's box for a state with its own breakaway candidates, and lost its international law card. Rather than a new Cold War, we're in a new broad war with several players, China chief among them, and Putin's Russia has placed short-term gain before long-term interests.

So the West should not overplay its hand. Breaking off arms reduction and missile defense talks with Russia is in nobody's interest. Nor are cheap shots like throwing Russia out of an (ever less relevant) G-8.

But nor can the West be cowed. It must shore up the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, with financial and other support. It must keep the trans-Caspian, Russia-circumventing energy corridor open. It must bolster Ukraine's independence. And, at the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in December, it should replace Bucharest blather with basics: a Membership Action Plan for Georgia and Ukraine.

Resolve tempered by engagement won the Cold War. It can help in the broad war.

OCTOBER 5th 2008
So where have we got to now?
South Ossetia is suffering from barbaric local militia involved in ethnic cleansing. They have actually attacked Russian army peacekeepers. The BBC has reported that the EU peacekeepers have been stopped at Russian checkpoints (for safety reasons) from entering the areas they are supposed to occupy. The international community insists that Russia withdraws its troops as agreed. Russia will comply, and the international community will very likely regret it.